Whatcom County Council is in the midst of planning for Whatcom County’s future development, and it’s looking for public input.
In accordance with the Washington State Growth Management Act, the growth of counties in Washington is governed at the county level by comprehensive plans, which coordinates rural county-development with development in urban growth areas (UGAs). The act requires counties to update their comprehensive plans every eight years to make sure they are developing in a way that protects natural resources as well as the economy. Whatcom County is due to update its comprehensive plan by June 30, 2016. As part of this planning process, the UGAs must be able to accommodate the projected population and employment growth for the next 20 years.
Creating an environmental impact statement (EIS) is an integral part of the plan-updating process, and is what the county is presently working on. The EIS covers how the county’s growth plan would impact the local environment, from air and water quality to plants and animals. The EIS will also give alternatives to the current plan and the environmental outcome of those alternatives.
“In the past, people have been concerned about rural land development, continued expansion of urban growth and development of land within the watershed,” said Matt Aamot of Whatcom County Planning and Development Services. The primary concerns of this revision have not yet been established, he said.
That’s where Whatcom County residents come into the picture. Before the EIS is set in motion, the county is asking for public comment on the scope of the EIS. Any comments on what should or shouldn’t be included in the statement assessing the environmental impact of Whatcom County’s development should be submitted to the council before 5 p.m. Monday, March 24.
Interested residents may attend a public scoping hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 18, at the county council chambers at the Whatcom County Courthouse.